Topic: War on Terror
Good news, the anti-opium effort in Afghanistan is starting to show signs of progress.
The IHT reports:
"Amid the multiplying frustrations of the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan, the northern province of Balkh has been hailed as a rare and glowing success . . . But largely ignored in the celebration was the fact that many farmers in Balkh simply switched from opium poppies to another illegal crop: cannabis, the herb from which marijuana and hashish are derived . . . Cannabis cultivation increased 40 percent around the country, to about 70,000 hectares this year - from about 50,000 hectares last year, the United Nations said in an August report."
Well, at the very least opium production is taking at hit, right?
Not really, it seems Iraq is moving in to take up the slack.
"Farmers in southern Iraq have started to grow opium poppies in their fields for the first time, sparking fears that Iraq might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan . . . The shift to opium production is taking place in the well-irrigated land west and south of Diwaniya around the towns of Ash Shamiyah, al Ghammas and Ash Shinafiyah."
The main opium activity is centered around the southern province of Diwaniya where we've been kind of at a loss to rein things in because the Shiites are in control and they're not too likely to be forming "concerned citizens" bridages any time soon. The Badr brigade and the Jaish al-Mahdi are fighting it out down there and we just tend to get in the way. It's still too early to see if growing poppies is going to work out, but if that doesn't work, Iraq always has weapons exports to fall back on.
"Iraq has long been awash with guns. But after the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in late February, sectarian tensions exploded, and more Iraqis than ever have been buying, carrying and stockpiling weapons, adding an unnerving level of firepower to Baghdad's streets . . . The U.S. military has added to the arsenal also, by shipping in hundreds of thousands of firearms and millions of rounds of ammunition, in an effort to equip the fledging Iraqi security forces so U.S. troops will be able to leave."
In fact, we've added tens of thousands of weapons [about 190,000 to be exact] into the mix which the Pentagon can't account for.
"Speaking on condition of anonymity . . . U.S. government officials stationed both in Washington and in the Middle East said it is possible that thousands of weapons given by the United States to the Iraqi army and police have slipped into the black market and into the hands of arms smugglers and terrorists operating in neighboring countries like Turkey."
Turkey? Yes, apparently, our weapons are ending up in the hands of the PKK, of all the darndest things. The very same PKK that Turkey launched an all out invasion of Iraq a few weeks ago to root out.
"Professor Ihsan Bal, a terrorism expert from the International Strategic Research Center in Ankara, says that 'terrorists are ending up with American weapons.' Like top Turkish government officials, he stopped short of accusing the United States of directly arming the PKK. Instead, he blamed the small-arms proliferation on American negligence and mismanagement. But, Bal added, with American popularity among Turks at an all-time low, 'quite a number of people are ready to believe that America might have directly [given these] weapons to the terrorist organization.'"
I don't believe we're arming the PKK, the negligence and mismanagement charge sounds much more plausible. We're so damn good at it! And who was in charge when all these weapons went missing?
The WaPo reports that a GAO report says:
"The United States has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least $2.8 billion to buy and deliver equipment. But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by gen. David H. Patraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq."
Huh, how about that? I feel a presidential medal coming on.
So, with all this oil, drug, and weapon money flowing around Iraq why are we spending any money there at all at this point?
The csmonitor reports a new study by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz says we're in a deep, deep money hole.
"'The cost is going up every month,' says Linda Bilmes, an expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She estimates the short-term, 'running cost' has reached $12.5 billion a month. That's up from $4.4 billion a month in 2003. Add in long-term factors, such as the care of veterans and interest on federal debt incurred as a result of the war, and the cost piles up to $25 billion a month nowadays."
And that's not to mention the almost 4000 soldiers we've lost and the 40,000 or so wounded. I feel lots of presidential medals coming on!!!
[I know none of this is necessarily new, but you put it all together and it really doesn't take a genius to figure out George W. Bush has really screwed the pooch for us.